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Las Vegas Part I: Let’s Go to Vegas! Casino Design

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Las Vegas Part I: Let’s Go to Vegas!
Casino Design

  • Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe

  • Gaming Boats and Terminal Pavilions

  • Native American Casinos

  • Caribbean Casino Resorts

  • Worldwide Casinos and Theme Resorts

Las Vegas

  • 154 will look at casino/strip design

  • 184 can examine the casino resort as a specific property type

  • 183 could look at marketing unique to casinos

  • 182 will analyze Las Vegas as a destination for tourism and the impacts of tourism

Las Vegas

  • First, a little history…

Las Vegas

  • Gambling was legalized in 1931 in Nevada, and Las Vegas (formally a support stop for the railroad between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles) gained six licenses

  • Gambling did exist before this (as far back as 1869) in underground forms (silver $$$)

Las Vegas

  • Boulder Dam (Hoover Dam) was begun shortly after and created a boom of growth to the area

Las Vegas

  • Divorce laws were relaxed in Nevada, making the “quickie divorce” a third reason to come to Las Vegas (pre-divorcees gained their residence by hanging out in “dude ranches” set up on what is now The Strip)

Las Vegas

  • Bugsy Siegel opens the Flamingo in 1946, which is the first luxury casino/resort “A bit of Miami Beach in Nevada”

  • Establishes the strip as a place for luxury properties

Las Vegas

  • Howard Hughes buys the Desert Inn in 1966

  • Hughes “cleans out the crime” and sets up Vegas as a place for safe gambling

Las Vegas

  • Kirk Kerkorian of MGM Studios enters Vegas

  • His first hotel is The International (1968) and he becomes “father of the megaresort

Casino Design

  • Martin Stern was responsible for transforming the concept of the casino from a collection of smaller buildings into the truly integrated resort

  • His partnership with Kirk Kerkorian (The International) changed the Vegas landscape

Las Vegas

  • Las Vegas is currently the most visited tourist destination in the United States*

  • Las Vegas currently has more hotel rooms than any location on earth*

Las Vegas

  • Politics (clean or dirty) and extremely wealthy men shaped Las Vegas from one perspective, but design and theming have attracted the fantasy of millions of visitors

  • (Other design elements such as noise, lighting, fenestration, layout, seating, etc., also make the casino experience)

Las Vegas

  • Geographically, Las Vegas is a desert…

  • It’s situated in a BWh climate zone (Tropical desert. Arid and hot.)

  • Dry Desert climates are formed by high-pressure zones in which cold air descends. Then the descending air becomes warm but, instead of releasing rain, the heat from the ground evaporates the water before it can come down as rain.

  • Vegas is also surrounded by mountains, and has a rather high elevation (2000ft), making it a unique desert

Las Vegas

  • The design of Western architecture has often imitated other locations

  • The American West often sought to attach itself architecturally to architectural styles of similar climate zones in other, more established parts of the world


  • Southern California has a Mediterranean climate (dry subtropical – Csa), and as Americans moved west, they built homes and buildings that were found in Mediterranean zones in Europe

Sierra Nevada

  • In the Sierra Nevada regions, the climate classification is Alpine (Highland – H), and consequently many buildings were designed to look like buildings from other highland zones like in Switzerland

  • (In fact, the mandatory
    resort architecture in Tahoe is called “Alpine Elegance”)

Las Vegas

  • It is fitting, then, in a region of the world that imitates other styles (or creates them almost out of thin air like in Sante Fe), that Las Vegas would employ “desert” architecture and theming for its first wave of resorts

  • This first wave is only one of several in Las Vegas

Las Vegas

  • Las Vegas has several “design periods”

  • Casino design, like all other building design, has three major components:

  • Building exterior

  • Building interior

  • Building environment

Las Vegas Design

  • This course will examine all three areas of building design

  • Students should be able to discuss the different periods of casino design, the significance of interior design, and understand the design relationship between the casino and its environment

Las Vegas

  • Desert Inn

  • Aladdin

  • Tropicana (not really desert, but still implying someplace hot)

  • Sands

  • Sahara

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

  • Other early casinos played of the images of the west in general (either
    by name or by

  • Nugget

  • Lady Luck

  • Horseshoe

  • Frontier

Las Vegas

  • This type of design was typically low key in that the primary hotel part of the casino still looked like a standard hotel

  • The desert or western elements were often applied as background, and were stronger in name than in actual appearance


Caesar’s Palace

  • 1966

  • Exception to the rule in that it focused on opulence rather than the desert or western theme

  • The architecture was vaguely Roman, but mostly 60s-mod

  • The idea was that every guest should feel like an emperor when they visited Caesar’s

The Beauty of Caesar’s

Las Vegas Strip

  • In addition to the rather half-backed attempt at theming (referred to as the “decorated shed” type of building by Venturi/Scott Brown), the Strip also featured many poorly conceived design elements that somehow worked when smoke-filled slot rooms were the main focus of a Vegas trip

Las Vegas Strip

  • The Strip was a strip

  • The signs were larger than the buildings (or almost as large)

  • Parking was right on the strip to show it was available

  • The superblock scale of the strip was not pedestrian friendly

Las Vegas Strip

  • People drove from casino to casino

  • Each casino attempted to be its own destination, and in spite of several having desert themes, there was no effort to make a blended, appealing cityscape (this would become a hallmark of Vegas)


  • This style of casino lasted until the mid-1980s

  • Because Las Vegas visitation had stalled, most casino owners were becoming content to keep their business, but not alter it

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